“I can stand in a room full of dead people and make it exciting.”
Gilbert Arenas told us this once back in Dime #29, when he was plastered on the cover with the headline “Who’s Better Than Me?”
It’s a tired clichÃ© but yet it’s true. Gilbert Arenas isn’t what he once was. Neither are Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Allen Iverson and all the rest of the once 30-point scoring, magazine-covering, teammate-aggravating, crossover-dropping stars the league put through the gauntlet and then filtered back out.
Did you even care that Arenas wasn’t suiting up at the start of this season? Did you even notice? I didn’t. Between Kyle Lowry getting overlooked worse than yogurt on waffles, Kobe Bryant‘s turn-back-the-clock, “I’m a scientific dawg” run, and the Portland Trail Blazers, who while they were always decent, were never really all that fun to watch until Nate McMillan allowed gangsta rap at practice, turned up the pace to “Dallas in 2003” levels and went out and scooped up Jamal Crawford, I forgot Gil even existed. I noticed it this morning on another post, 10 teams who need a new point guard. Readers brought it up: “What about Gil?” I never really gave Gil a thought, not even a waning second. I thought about him for about as much time as Jay-Z nearly gave Mobb Deep. Arenas gets half a bar.
When you aren’t really taking media requests, when no one exactly wants you, when the main things you’ve become known for over the past few years are your exceedingly-awkward aloofness, and guns in the locker room, the world moves on without you.
In The Deer Hunter, Michael returns home after a hellacious stint in Vietnam to find everything is different. And not just physically different either; He feels out of it, like everyone forgot about him. Emotionally shot. I felt – not quite as drastically – similarly coming home from college. A part of me felt like a loser (no idea why), and the other half seemed in transition. Everything was changing, up in the air. My mother had moved, and I was living out of an apartment that wasn’t exactly home, only a place of residence. By the time (if) Arenas gets back in the league, his feelings will probably be similar. What he once was probably won’t be the same as what he will be.
Orlando wasted no time shedding Arenas’ presence and contract when they made him one of the earliest victims of the amnesty clause before this season began, and since then I haven’t heard a peep from out of his corner, except that he wants to go wherever Dwight Howard goes.
Michael Lee of the Washington Post writes:
Coach Flip Saunders said he expects Arenas to find a job with a team before the season ends. “I would think eventually. When you see people get hurt, you would think that at some point, someone is going to give him an opportunity. I don’t think it’s going to be at the financial situation he was at in the past, or even close, but I think if at some point, he wants to play, he’ll probably have an opportunity somewhere.”
Stan Van Gundy also told Lee he didn’t think it was fair to judge Arenas based on his time in Orlando. A diminished role â€“ off the bench for 15-20 minutes a night in a system that didn’t cater to his strengths – for someone who once averaged 29.3 points a night isn’t exactly fair. But it happened, Arenas dropping a near single digit PER and sub-35 percent shooting. And it’s the last anyone has seen of Agent Zero.
But will he ever find a suitable role? Will he ever find peace on a team where he knows when a coach glances down the bench and gestures with a finger exactly what they want from him? Reminiscing on the past is prevalent in every avenue, but perhaps none more so than sports where records, numbers, stories and memories are all we have. Real life represents a moment, the present… at least for most of us. Sports give meaning to what was and what will be. Judgement comes from what you’ve done and what you will do. That’s why so many people want to see Arenas come back, or perhaps even expect him to.
I doubt Arenas ever fully engrains himself back into the NBA culture (That also depends on if he even WANTS to come back). I don’t think he’s done playing, but to find peace again, even if it’s only as an eight-point a game scorer, seems unlikely. Plenty of players came before him in a similar situation. Plenty more will come after, and there have been few recent success stories.
For now, all we have are fabricated rumors, but tasty, made-up rumors nonetheless. Chicago. San Antonio. Washington. Los Angeles. New York. Who wants a lil’ of the former super agent that no one can find? The lost, basketball-playing version of Mallory from Haywire?
Chicago? They wouldn’t want him anywhere close to Derrick Rose. The Lakers? Every guard who goes there gets banished to the corner and told to “stay” by Kobe. New York? Too many bad memories of Penny Hardaway and Steve Francis on their last legs for me to stomach. Washington? Are you high?
To me, if you’re a veteran and you can’t somehow force your way to Phoenix, the next best place might be San Antonio.
Where would you want to see Arenas end up at?
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